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Can Public Life Be Regenerated?

The 32-page report, Can Public Life Be Regenerated? (2016), was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation. This report is based on a presentations Mathews gave the the Independent Sector conference on issues of community, civil society, and governance. In this report, Mathews explores the possibilities to “reweave the social fabric” within society, to improve its social capital and revitalize its sense of community, and create a healthier civil society.

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…

This paper was written in 1996 for an Independent Sector conference. At that time, the term public life was used to distinguish political life from other kinds of collective living. This was intended to counter a tendency to conflate largely social phenomena (attending a picnic) with more political activities (building a playground to give children a safer place to play). If I were writing this paper today, I likely would title it Can Democracy Be Regenerated? The Kettering Foundation’s research has led to a distinctive understanding of democratic politics that puts citizens at the center. By citizens, we mean people who join with others to produce things that serve our common well-being. As our research evolved, we came to use “making democracy work as it should” as a central, organizing theme. We define democracy, at its most fundamental, as a system of governance in which power comes from citizens who generate their power by working together to combat common problems—beginning in their communities—and by working to shape their common future, both through what they do with one another and through their institutions. – David Mathews April 4, 2016

These days we seem willing to consider the possibility that democracies need something more than written constitutions, multiple parties, free elections, and representative governments. They also depend on a strong public life, a rich depository of social capital, a sense of community, and a healthy civil society. Now comes the obvious follow-up: Is it possible to “reweave the social fabric,” to generate social capital where it is lacking, to build a sense of community in a fragmented, polarized city, to invigorate public life at a time when many Americans are seeking security in private sanctuaries? No one knows. Maybe a democratic civil society takes centuries to develop, building layer upon layer like a coral reef. Maybe the places we admire most result more from happenstance than we would like to admit. These reservations notwithstanding, we do have cases where a civil order changed its character in a relatively short period of time. Modern Spanish democracy emerged from Franco’s fascism in only a few decades, according to Víctor Pérez Díaz. And Vaughn Grisham Jr. reports that Tupelo, Mississippi, changed its civic character in roughly the same amount of time, the result being that the poorest city in the poorest county in the poorest state of the union became a progressive community with a per capita income close to that of Atlanta. (more…)

When is Deliberation Democratic?

The 14-page article, When is Deliberation Democratic?, was written by David Moscrop and Mark Warren, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors theorize on how deliberative democracy operates in relation to equality and equity. They lift up two features that are of particular importance to pre-deliberative democracy: popular participation and agenda-setting, that must be paid attention to by theorist and practitioners. Deliberative democratic processes shape and are shaped by these two features, popular participation- how people show up and express their voice, and agenda-setting- how concerns are shaped into issues. The authors offer suggestions on responding to the challenges of equality and equity to democratic deliberation.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

“Deliberative democracy” is a compound term. In both theory and practice, it connects deliberative influence through reason-giving, reciprocity, and publicity to a family of political systems that broadly enable popular control of the state and government through empowerments such as voting, petitioning, and contesting, as well as the electoral and judicial systems that enable them. These empowerments are democratic when they are distributed to, and usable by, those affected by collective decisions in ways that are both equal and equitable.

While deliberative influence is best protected and incentivized by democratic political systems, not all deliberation is democratic, and not all approaches to democracy are deliberative. We should distinguish and relate these terms: we need to differentiate the practice of deliberation from the contexts of democratic enablements and empowerments in which it occurs. We can then focus on the pre-deliberative conditions that will enable or limit the extent to which deliberation is democratic. Two pre-deliberative democratic features stand out as particularly important in this context: popular participation—how individuals come to have standing and voice as participants, and agenda setting—how concerns come to be defined as issues. We further argue that since deliberation typically occurs downstream from agenda-setting, and since popular participation both shapes and is shaped by this practice, theorists and practitioners of deliberative democracy should pay close attention to each feature well before deliberation begins.

To make this case, we first theorize the democratic dimensions of deliberative democracy through the concepts of equity and equality. Second, we focus on agenda-setting and popular participation as important, though not exclusive, pre-deliberative determinants of equality and equity during deliberation. Finally, we offer suggestions about how theorists and practitioners of deliberative democracy might think about responding to the challenges generated by the tension between equality and equity prior to democratic deliberation. (more…)

Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin

The 17-page article, Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin, was written by Katherine Cramer and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Cramer discusses the process around gathering public input on whether the Madison police department should implement body-worn cameras on their officers. She gives details around the context for the process and the four lessons learned throughout the whole experience.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

We expect deliberation to achieve many things—better-informed opinions, tolerance, efficacy, well-rounded decisions, and decisions that have legitimacy (e.g., Barabas, 2004; Fishkin, 1995; Gastil, 2000; Jacobs, Cook, & Delli Carpini, 2009; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Mill 1859 [1956]). Deliberation supposedly enlarges our ability to incorporate moral values into governance (Gutmann & Thompson, 1996); enables an enlightened interpretation of the general will (Mansbridge, 1999); and increases the legitimacy of the decisions reached (e.g., Young, 2001). The expected democratic benefits of deliberation are numerous. But each of those outcomes relies on a particular quality: that a range of people and perspectives be included in the discussion. This means that ideal deliberation should involve equality of access as well as equality of who talks and who gets heard (Mansbridge, 1999; Mendelberg & Oleske, 2000).

But ensuring these things is difficult. As with all political participation, people with resources, particularly income and education, are more likely to show up. Also, people within social networks of politically active people are more likely to be recruited to participate (Jacobs, Cook & Delli Carpini, 2009; Ryfe & Stalsburg 2012; Verba, Schlozman & Brady 1996). Even when people representing a wide range of perspectives are in the room, deliberative processes privilege the views of privileged people (Sanders, 1997; Young, 2001).

Nevertheless, the belief endures that democratic governance is best achieved when people inform the decisions that affect them, and so the field of deliberative democracy continues to strive for ways to incorporate marginalized voices into the process to enable democracy to live up to its promise. (more…)

Promoting Inclusion, Equity and Deliberation in a National Dialogue on Mental Health

The 15-page article, Promoting Inclusion, Equity and Deliberation in a National Dialogue on Mental Health, was written by Tom Campbell, Raquel Goodrich, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, and Daniel Schugurensky, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors share their experiences with the project, “Creating Community Solutions” (CCS), in which six organizations partnered to better understand how the public is engaged around mental health. By implementing three engagement strategies, CCS sought to shift the social norms around mental health and work to improve the inclusivity of how individuals and communities are engaged.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

The ability to make progress on the nation’s mental health crisis has been limited not only by inadequate resources but also by the difficulty of addressing underlying discrimination, stigma, and cultural barriers. Indeed, some populations are especially vulnerable and underserved by mental health services. To begin, young people have high rates of mental health problems and low rates of seeking help; three-quarters of mental health problems begin before the age of 24. Second, common mental health disorders are twice as common among individuals with low incomes, and there is a strong correlation between mental illness, poverty, and crime. Third, communities of color tend to experience a greater burden of mental and substance-use disorders, most often due to limited access to care, inappropriate care, and higher social, environmental, and economic risk factors. Fourth, LGBTQ youth are sometimes rejected by their families and peers, and experiencing bullying and bias can lead to anxiety, depression, drug use, and suicide. The stigma associated with mental illness often leads to reluctance to find help. It has been reported that up to 60 percent of individuals with mental illness do not seek treatment and services (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015). (more…)

Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time

The 342-page book, Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time, by Mary Gelinas, was published September 2016. In the book, Gelinas explains and guides you and your community in eight practices that are essential to creating effective dialogue and deliberation. Use it as a guidebook or training manual to enhance your own skills as you work with groups to address the issues they care about.

From the book… 

We create the present and future in our meetings and conversations every day. What can we do to increase the likelihood that we’re creating a future that we all want? We can start by talking more constructively and productively about what matters to us all.

After decades of advising groups in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, process design and facilitation expert Mary V. Gelinas has integrated her best knowledge of brain and behavioral sciences, mindful awareness, and effective process to create Talk Matters! Her eight essential practices offer us ways to avoid getting hijacked by our survival instincts, engage with people who differ from us, and open ourselves, our businesses, and our communities to real, lasting change. As she explains, good process can help us work better together to do good things for the world.

In this highly readable and accessible book, Gelinas uses real-world examples to illustrate the practices that can help you start achieving life-serving results in your interactions as a leader, participant, or facilitator today.

What NCDD colleagues and friends say about the book: (more…)

Budgeting for Equity: How Can Participatory Budgeting Advance Equity in the United States?

The 18-page article, Budgeting for Equity: How Can Participatory Budgeting Advance Equity in the United States? , was written by Madeleine Pape and Josh Lerner and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The article talks about the history of participatory budgeting, starting in Porto Alegre and how it has growth in the US. Two major claims of PB is that is it an opportunity to “revitalize democracy and advance equity”. Pape and Lerner share some of the challenges and strategies to equity within PB.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

In 1989, the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre undertook a radical experiment to alter the chemistry of democracy. After decades of dictatorship and thin representative democracy had cemented Brazil’s economy as one of the most unequal in the world, the newly elected Workers Party government attempted a new variant of democracy, one that mixed participation and equity. Its experiment in “participatory budgeting” aimed to redirect resources to those with the greatest needs – and it succeeded.

Over 3,000 cities have since tried to replicate Porto Alegre’s success by empowering residents to directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Many processes have inspired high participation, but struggled to engage or redistribute resources to marginalized communities. Participatory budgeting (PB) has recently grown dramatically in the United States, from a pilot process in Chicago’s 49th ward in 2009 to over 50 processes in a dozen cities in 2015. The once obscure concept has been heralded by the White House as a best practice of civic engagement and by scholars as the lynchpin of a “new wave of democratic innovation” (Stoker et al., 2011, p. 38; White House, 2013). (more…)

Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-achieving Communities

The 21-page report, Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-Achieving Communities (2016), was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation.

The report discusses how communities become stronger and more resilient through more “leaderfulness” of its community members, as opposed to having just a few of active leaders. What Mathews means by “leaderfulness”, is that people are engaged within a community and show leaderfulness by taking initiative to participate. Through years of research, Kettering has found that the serious problems that face a community require active participation from the people within it. There is a largely untapped civic energy in this country, this report shares information on how community members can be more leaderful and what that can look like.

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…kf_leaders_cover

There is a widely held belief that change only occurs when a few courageous leaders step forward to take charge and overcome entrenched power. History is full of examples of great leaders who have been agents of change: Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, George Washington. You can complete the list. Could “just citizens” working with just citizens ever change anything?

Kettering began to think about this question as a result of a study of two communities that, although similar, were quite different in what they achieved.3 However, the more dysfunctional of the two actually had the best leaders, as leadership is traditionally understood. They were well educated, well connected, professionally successful, and civically responsible. Yet what stood out in the higher-achieving community was not so much the characteristics of the leaders as their number, their location and, most of all, the way they interacted with other citizens. The higher-achieving community had 10 times more people providing initiative than communities of comparable size. The community was “leaderful.” And its leaders functioned not as gatekeepers but as door openers, bent on widening participation.

Beginning Where We Live
Because we are facing an array of daunting domestic problems and a morass of international uncertainties, many Americans think we need to make basic changes in the way the country operates. We believe that the chances for change are best beginning at the local level, in communities where we can get our hands on problems. Change has to start there before it can take place nationwide. At the same time, we are deeply worried about what is happening to our sense of community, to our ability to live and work together. As Benjamin Barber put it, we worry that “beneath the corruptions associated with alcohol and drugs, complacency and indifference, discrimination and bigotry, and violence and fractiousness—is a sickness of community: its corruption, its rupturing, its fragmentation, its breakdown; finally, its vanishing and its absence.” (more…)

Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue

The 11-page article, Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue (2016), was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The authors make the distinction within deliberation between equity and equality, and confront what this means to fairness and participants being able to fully engage in deliberation. The article examines different approaches to inclusion within deliberative theory and practice, as well as, the authors address some challenges and opportunities.

Read an excerpt of the article in full below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Deliberative democrats have had much to say about equality and have long been concerned with creating conditions for it in discourse. Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, for example, write that the principle of political equality “stands behind” the demand for deliberation (1996, p. 28). That is, deliberation presupposes that people deserve equal respect and that in conditions of disagreement such respect demands the open exchange of views and the mutual attempt to identify fair and just solutions. Yet how is equal respect constructed in deliberation? For example, if pursuing equality means treating everyone similarly, regardless of what they bring to deliberation, there are longstanding concerns that this approach can reproduce and reinforce enduring hierarchies of income, education, race, gender, or other characteristics (Young 2000; Sanders 1997). These disparities have the potential to frustrate and even derail the attempt to create conditions in which all perspectives can be included and fully heard. At the same time, if attention to such inequalities means treating deliberators differently, then the worry is that such approaches may stigmatize disadvantaged voices or even provoke a backlash among the more powerful.

This special issue examines different approaches to the full inclusion, participation, and influence of all voices in deliberative theory and practice. In approaching this issue, we mark a key distinction between the values of equality and equity. By equality, we mean an approach to deliberative fairness that emphasizes the need to treat all deliberators the same, regardless of their power (or lack thereof) outside of the deliberative forum. This approach holds that deliberative fairness is most likely to be achieved when those background inequalities are put aside, bracketed, or neutralized in discussion. In contrast, equity means taking into account the advantages and disadvantages that have shaped participants’ experiences, which may require treating participants differently in order to create conditions that achieve fair deliberation and decisions. As Edana Beauvais and André Bächtiger (this issue) put it, equality asserts “the fundamental sameness of common humanity” and the need to “abstract from social circumstances,” while equity emphasizes “attending to” social circumstances and the resultant distribution of power and resources. The contributors to this issue take up this core distinction between equality and equity in a variety of different ways, and occasionally with slightly different terms, but all of them are confronting the common challenge of creating circumstances in which all deliberators can participate fully and even authoritatively.

Tensions between equality and equity emerge constantly in both formal institutions of political decision-making and the wider political culture. We see these struggles in debates over access to education, fair wages, health and welfare policy, policing, immigration, regulation of speech, and many other issues. (more…)

The Danger of a Single Story

The 18 min TedTalk, The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was filmed in July 2009. In the talk, Adichie shares what she calls, “the danger of a single story” and the false understandings that can arise when only the single side of a story is heard. Adichie shows the powerful opportunity of storytelling- to hear the many different sides of a story and have a more complete understanding of a person, a situation, a reality. Below is the full talk and a brief excerpt of the transcript, and it can also be viewed at Ted.com site here.

From the transcript…

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called “American Psycho” and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation.

But it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer that he was somehow representative of all Americans. This is not because I am a better person than that student, but because of America’s cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America. (more…)


From AllSides…

Unlike regular news services, AllSides exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get the full picture, not just one slant.allsides_logo

At AllSides, we believe the way society gets its news and information affects the world around us. And lately it hasn’t been going well. News, social media and even search results have dramatically changed in the last several years, becoming so narrowly filtered, biased and personalized that we are becoming less informed and less tolerant of different people and ideas.

This is how it happens, and what we can do about it.

Blasted with the overwhelming 24-hour news noise of today, which is often loud, extreme, partisan and rude, we tend to do one of the following:
Disengage from trying to understand or solve society’s problems.
Block out different perspectives, becoming more close-minded and less tolerant of other people and ideas.

There’s a better way… AllSides sees a strong connection between our ability to comprehend and tolerate different opinions, and our ability to develop better schools, more jobs, more wellbeing, and less violence. So we decided to address the core problem – the overwhelming and often one-sided information flow.

How? Change the way we get information so it is easy to sort through the noise and see different perspectives. Armed with a broader view, we can resist attempts to manipulate us in one direction or the other. Instead, we can truly decide for ourselves:

Understand and appreciate different perspectives and people. We’re creating a better informed, less polarized world.

AllSides delivers technology and services to provide multiple perspectives on news, issues, and topics – and the people behind the ideas. With it, we get a broader, deeper understanding of the issues and each other so together we can build a more perfect union.

About the AllSides Bias Rating
The AllSides Bias Rating TM reflects the average judgment of the American people. Bias is normal. If you’ve got a pulse, you’ve got a bias. But hidden bias misleads and divides us. That’s why we have the AllSides Bias Rating.

Bias ratings can be a powerful tool. With it, we can easily look at a news story or issue from different perspectives just by looking at articles on the same topic but from sources that have different bias ratings. By understanding bias, we can understand topics and each other better.

Join us in making bias more transparent everywhere. Rate your own bias, learn how you compare to others (options on this page to the right), and help us rate the bias of other news sources. (more…)